Jahmell Crockam was found guilty Thursday in the murder of a Lakewood police officer who was among the first in Ocean County's history to die by gunfire.
Kelly Walsifer, fiancee of slain Lakewood police officer Christopher Matlosz, cried as the jury announced that Crockam was guilty of murder and weapons charges.
Crockam, showing little emotion, was then handcuffed and led out of Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels' courtroom.
Crockam will be sentenced in Daniels' courtroom on March 22. The charges carry a sentence of mandatory life with no parole, said William J. Heisler, chief assistant Ocean County prosecutor.
The verdict came on the ninth day after the trial began, during which Crockam's lawyer put up little defense to combat the charges against him.
"It's a good day," Walsifer said in the courtyard of the Ocean County Justice Complex following the verdict.
"That man," Walsifer said referring to Crockam, "ruined my life. Justice prevailed for Chris."
Walsifer said that the trial "was not an easy process" for her and members of Matlosz' family.
"It's been a difficult 13 months," she said. Though pleased with the verdict, she said that "it doesn't bring Chris back."
Defense attorney Mark Fury said outside the complex that he was "very confident" that his client received a fair trial.
"The jury has spoken and we have to respect that," he said. "Reasonable minds could have differed."
Fury said that an appeal may be possible but did not indicate if he or another attorney would pursue it.
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford issued a statement following the verdict, saying that Crockam was treated fairly and with dignity before and during the proceedings.
"It represents in one sense the culmination of a system of justice that is unique in the world in which we live, established by the founders of the country in a constitution that is weighted at all steps in favor of the accused," she said.
Ford continues that Matlosz' family, including mother Jane Calao and brother Adam Matlosz, must now live with the loss of the 27-year-old officer who lived in Manchester.
"This process does little to bring closure to their pain," she said. "Tomorrow they will continue, like any other day, to confront their day feeling a terrible sense of loss."
Heisler said that the prosecution was "very grateful" that the witnesses stepped forward to testify in the trial.
A statement issued by state senator Robert Singer (R-30), a Lakewood resident and propenent of reinstating the death penalty for certain offenses, said that Matlosz' murder "warrants a limited capital punishment system in New Jersey."
"We should be able to sentence the most-brazen and deadly murderers to the fullest extent humanly possible, as is done in other states," Singer said.
Jurors did not return a verdict in the murder trial Wednesday after spending an afternoon deliberating.
The timeline of the events on the January 2011 day that Matlosz was gunned down — coupled with corroborating statements from multiple witnesses — was important to proving Crockam pulled the trigger, Heisler said.
On that day, Crockam allegedly saw Matlosz in his vehicle on August Drive just before 4 p.m., shot the officer at about 4:06 p.m., and was placing calls looking for a ride out of town at 4:07 p.m., Heisler said.
In his closing argument, Fury said that while Crockam was in the neighborhood at the time of the shooting, that does not prove he is guilty.
"[The evidence] all boil down to one simple fact," Fury said. "He was in the neighborhood before the shooting. He left the neighborhood after."